Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has three pickoffs this season. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
The Tigers have earned a reputation as a power team, at the plate and on the mound.
The staff set a season record with 1,428 strikeouts, while the offense led baseball in average and was second in slugging percentage.
The Red Sox bring the same skill set to the American League Championship Series, finishing first in runs scored and slugging percentage. But the Red Sox also bring speed on the basepaths, which could be a defining advantage.
The Red Sox, fourth in baseball with 123 stolen bases in 141 attempts (85 percent), gets things going with leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury.
It’s an issue Tigers manager Jim Leyland is well aware of.
“If you looked at our last couple of series with Kansas City — who is a real running team (132 steals in 170 attempts) — you’ll find we did a good job of that,” Leyland said. “We picked them off about three times.
“I don’t know that we’ll be able to get Ellsbury. That’s kind of a Catch-22. You can’t get consumed by that as a pitcher, because then you make too many mistakes with the hitter.”
To slow teams from trying to steal, Tigers pitchers varied their throwing rhythms, holding the ball before pitches. It’ll be put to the test against the Red Sox.
“We’ll have a plan,” Leyland said. “We’ll try to watch it close. We’ll try to contain them. It’s not going to be a perfect deal.
“But you know, I don’t know how much that will be a factor.”
On Friday, both managers announced their pitching rotations for the first four games.
Game 1: Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez vs. Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.
Game 2: Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer vs. Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz.
Game 3: Red Sox right-hander John Lackey vs. Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander.
Game 4: Red Sox right-hander Jake Peavy vs. Tigers right-hander Doug Fister.
Scherzer and Verlander would available to start Games 6 and 7 for the Tigers, if necessary.
Leyland said despite Sanchez’s rough outing in Game 3 of the Division Series, he knows Sanchez can turn things around.
“He did not have a good playoff start. I feel very confident in him,” Leyland said. “It took him a couple of innings to get going. I think he’ll be back in the groove now. He led this league in earned run average; that’s pretty impressive.”
Around the horn
Leyland didn’t reveal his lineup, but said Jose Iglesias will start at shortstop in Game 1, which likely means Jhonny Peralta will start in left field.
... Joe West, who has the most years of service in baseball, will be the crew chief for the ALCS and start Game 1 behind the plate.